Thursday, March 3, 2011

Morning Brief: Mention the Swimsuit Issue, drive traffic; print and digital ad gains reported at the Toronto Star

Earlier this I did a post about WoodWing's work with Time Inc. on a Chrome browser version of the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit issue. I thought the concept was rather interesting, browser based editions of print products, so I did a short post on it and included a few screenshots of both the Chrome app and the equivalent iOS apps.

The next day, first thing in the morning I checked my traffic numbers and found that Monday TNM traffic close to tripled. At first I did not put two and two together. Maybe this was the result of the change in Google's algorithm, now sites are completing head-on with content farms. Tuesday traffic was still unusually high, but definitely lower than Monday. Wednesday the downward trend towards continued and I finally looked a little deeper to see that one story was driving the whole phenomenon: and you can guess which story.

Blatant traffic bait.

I suppose this is precisely what other websites do all the time, but strangely it never crossed my mind that a story about a media app would have that kind of effect, and frankly it is a bit disheartening knowing that for many sites, driving worthless traffic in pursuit of uniques is a way of life. Seems a pretty slimy way to make a living, but c'est la vie.

So, let's have a little fun at the expense of all those hormone-driven teenage boys: Sports Illustrated Swimsuit issue, Sports Illustrated Swimsuit issue, Sports Illustrated Swimsuit issue -- there, that should do it.

The Montreal Gazette had a story this morning that reports some good news in the newspaper industry -- yeah, I know, hard to believe.

The story by Jamie Sturgeon of Postmedia News reports that his own company, Postmedia Network, which released ten media apps a couple of weeks before Christmas, has had its Standard & Poor's debt rating raised. We'll see if the ratings agency's faith in the future is justified.

Probably more importantly is the other news found in the story that the Toronto Star reported "better-than-expected profit for the fourth quarter led by a rise in advertising spending" -- an actual increase in revenue performance is always real good news.

"There's a couple of weak spots in there, specifically retail advertising, but overall the tone of the guidance is sequentially better," Drew McReynolds, analyst at RBC Capital Markets, is quoted as telling The Gazette.

While retail revenue may not have grown, other ad categories, including digital resulted in the revenue gains at Star Media.

Yesterday's Apple event yesterday was followed by the usual media stories about the sales prospects of the new iPad 2, along with some really strange reviews like this one by Preston Gralla of Computerworld.

But some of the stories could have predicted based on the original iPad stories from April of last year. For instance, UK writers tend to be automatically negative about new products like the iPad. Jemima Kiss, of The Guardian led her story with this line: "It's not hard to read Steve Jobs' surprise appearance at Wednesday's iPad 2 unveiling as a mark of desperation."

For the record, Apple's stock price stands this morning at 352.12. Now that is desperation. But come on editors, did you really have to let Kiss hang herself, or was this the kind of article you let run in order to point to it later as a reason for her dismissal?

But The Telegraph, which ran some fun "claim chowder" last year when the first iPad was released seems to have thrown in the towel. The Telegraph has a half dozen little stories about the iPad 2 this morning.

The best one, though, takes a quote from The Guardian's analyst round-up by Charles Arthur. He gets this remark from Carolina Milanesi, vp of research in consumer technologies at Gartner:

"Competitors are making the same mistake that mobile vendors made with their response to iPhone: they are making the battle about hardware, and with tablets this is even less the case than it was for smartphones. What you are empowered to do with your tablet makes the difference."